Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
January 20th, 2015
Episode 82 of 900 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 20, 2015 is: septentrional \sep-TEN-tree-uh-nul\ adjective : northern Examples: When he tired of the long, septentrional winters of New England, Grandfather retired to Florida. "Once the tourists have filtered back to their septentrional homes in Europe, the men of Spetsai resume their norm of shooting birds." C. L. Sulzberger, The New York Times, September 28, 1986 Did you know? Look to the northern night skies for the origin of septentrional. Latin Septentriones (or Septemtriones) refers to the seven stars in Ursa Major that make up the Big Dipper, or sometimes to the seven stars in Ursa Minor that comprise the Little Dipper. Because of the reliable northerly presence of these stars, Septentriones was extended to mean "northern quarter of the sky," or simply "the north"hence, our borrowed adjective septentrional, meaning "northern." The noun septentrion also appears in works in Middle and Early Modern English to designate "northern regions" or "the north." In Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part III, for example, the Duke of York rebukes Queen Margaret, saying: "Thou art as opposite to every good as the South to the Septentrion."